I know there were changes made from the book to the screen, but I'm falling on the side of loving them. For one thing, hearing about Black Jack's atrocities from his own mouth gives Randall more depth, as we're all forced to witness the shades of his (in)humanity. Menzies finally showed me why he got cast for the role, and while I don't think he's as brilliant as everybody seems to profess, I'm far more satisfied with how the portrayals are coming along than I was before.
But this was all about the acting, on everyone's part. Menzies got his hour to shine, but Balfe really got me with all her reaction shots. That's the harder thing to do by a mile, and she nailed it. (You'd think she would learn not to drink so much around strangers, but then again, she wouldn't be Claire if she did that, now would she, lol?) It's a testament to the actors and the script that it can be as engrossing as it was while mostly contained in that one room.
Even Dougal got his moments. I *loved* the proud little look he shot Claire when he agreed with the general about Claire's bossiness.
Now the violence...I chatted with my sister and she couldn't stomach a lot of it, like the amputation. And it was rough, I'll grant you that. But I've been indoctrinated in Kurt Sutter production and shock values, so after Sons of Anarchy, this wasn't hard to take at all, lol.
Though the ending was so tonally different from the rest of the episode, I'm glad it was there. It needed the slight reprieve after all the tension. Plus, the exchange between Jamie and Claire about virginity remains one of my favorites in the books. I'm tickled it got included in the show. It's one of the many ways the books worked to subvert gender expectations.
I'd like to make a general request, though. If I haven't mentioned watching a show on my LJ yet, please don't mention spoilers for it in comments. I rarely get to watch shows when they air. Sometimes, it takes several days, because of real life stuff, and I hate having my opinions tainted before seeing it. Sometimes that can't be helped, or sometimes I will seek things out, but for 90% of my TV watching, I remain as spoiler-free as possible.